Child Youth and Family staff at a regional office have been told they are Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's servants who should not trouble their master with concerns about their work.

In an email dated August 13, supplied to NZPA by Labour Party deputy leader Annette King, Kaitaia CYF staff were told to show respect to the minister when she visited the next day.

"It is not appropriate for staff to pour their hearts and souls out to the minister," a manager wrote. "This is a formal visit and she is not your 'friend'. It's a bit like the relationship between a servant and a master, ie the servant knows their place. She should not be presented with the woes of the office, or lack of resources, or anything like that."

However, the email said it was okay to state there were challenges that could be managed.

The email was anonymously copied to National, Labour and other political parties as well as the Children's Commissioner.

"This amounts to workplace bullying, and corruption within a public service department," they wrote.

Ms King asked questions in Parliament yesterday about the email.

"If staff are not allowed to talk to her [Ms Bennett] how can she really know what pressures staff are facing if reports to her have to be sanitised?"

Ms Bennett told NZPA she wanted staff to speak to her about concerns.

"I very much value them and their opinions and I am disappointed in the manager's email."

Ms King said there were wider problems of the Government blocking information and communication and said she was frustrated by poor responses to written questions and Official Information Act requests. She had also struggled to get permission to visit CYF offices.

CYF's deputy chief executive, Ray Smith, said the email was an "unnecessary and surprising" action and the manager involved regretted showing bad judgment.

"It was completely inappropriate and in no way reflects the position that I or the staff of CYF take with our minister visiting our offices," Mr Smith said.

Ms King later said she expected Ms Bennett to ensure staff felt they could speak out about work problems.

- NZPA